New Zealand trying to lead crackdown on social media

Without knowing any details I don’t know whether the be pleased or concerned about attempts by the New Zealand Government to lead a crackdown on social media.

It is too easy for people and organisations to spread false and damaging information via social media, but attempts to deal with this could easily lurch too far in limiting freedom of expression.

NZ Herald – Social media crackdown: How New Zealand is leading the global charge

Steps towards global regulation of social media companies to rein in harmful content looks likely, with the Government set to take a lead role in a global initiative, the Herald has learned.

The will of governments to work together to tackle the potentially harmful impacts of social media would have only grown stronger in the wake of the terror attacks in Sri Lanka, where Facebook and Instagram were temporarily shut down in that country to stop the spread of false news reports.

Following the Christchurch terror attack, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been working towards a global co-ordinated response that would make the likes of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter more responsible for the content they host.

The social media companies should be held to account for what they enable, but it’s a very tricky thing to address without squashing rights and freedoms.

Currently multinational social media companies have to comply with New Zealand law, but they also have an out-clause – called the safe harbour provisions – that means they may not be legally liable for what users publish on their sites, though these were not used in relation to the livestream video of the massacre in Christchurch.

Other countries, including Australia, are taking a more hardline approach that puts more onus on these companies to block harmful content, but the Government has decided a global response would be more effective, given the companies’ global reach.

Facebook has faced a barrage of criticism for what many see as its failure to immediately take down the livestream and minimise its spread; Facebook removed 1.5 million videos of the attack within 24 hours.

They were too ineffective and too slow – that they took down one and a half million copies shows how quickly the video spread before action was taken.

Ardern has said this wasn’t good enough, saying shortly after the Christchurch terror attack: “We cannot simply sit back and accept that these platforms just exist and that what is said on them is not the responsibility of the place where they are published.”

Among those adding their voices to this sentiment were the bosses of Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees and the managers of five government-related funds, who all called on social media companies to do more to combat harmful content.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards has also been scathing, calling Facebook “morally bankrupt” and saying it should take immediate action to make its services safe.

Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said that existing laws and protections were not enough to stop the online proliferation of the gunman’s video.

He doubted that changing any New Zealand laws would be effective, and echoed Ardern in saying that a global solution was ideal.

But it is generally much harder to get international agreement on restrictive laws, so a global solution may be very difficult to achieve. Actually there is never likely to be ‘a solution’, all they can do is make it harder for bad stuff to proliferate.

The UK is currently considering a white paper on online harms that proposes a “statutory duty of care” for online content hosts.

Rules would be set up and enforced by an independent regulator, which would demand illegal content to be blocked within “an expedient timeframe”. Failure to comply could lead to substantial fines or even shutting down the service.

The problem is an effective timeframe has to be just about instant.

In Australia a law was recently passed that requires hosting services to “remove abhorrent violent material expeditiously” or face up to three years’ jail or fines in the millions of dollars.

Germany also has a law that gives social media companies an hour to remove “manifestly unlawful” posts such as hate speech, or face a fine up to 50 million Euros.

And the European Union is considering regulations that would give social media platforms an hour to remove or disable online terrorist content.

In New Zealand multiple laws – including the Harmful Digital Communications Act, the Human Rights Act, and the Crimes Act – dictate what can and cannot be published on social media platforms.

While Ardern has ruled out a model such as Australia’s, changes to New Zealand law could still happen following the current review of hate speech.

Legally defining ‘hate speech’ wil be difficult enough, and applying laws governing speech will require decisions and judgements to be made by people. That could be very difficult to do effectively.

 

 

Shameful, disgraceful attack on Golriz Gharaman by ‘David Hughes’

Green MP Golriz Gharaman has been the target of frequent attacks in social media. She highlighted this one that combines an attack on her with an attack on Muslims posted on Facebook yesterday:

The whole image (from Facebook):

That’s bad, and it’s sad to see this sort of thing continuing. Members of Parliament (or anyone) should not be targeted with this sort of scurrilous misinformation and abuse.

Ghahraman confronted him on Facebook:

Golriz Ghahraman Given you know I’m not Muslim and my family had to leave Iran due to persecution by a purportedly Islamic regime, this is both a lie and hate speech. Be ashamed.

But he seems far from ashamed. He also posted further accusations, plus this:

As to your moronic charge of “hate speech”, fiddlesticks, you don’t even know what that might be beyond some infantile catch cry for your sycophants.

But I do love that we live in a liberal Democracy where we can have this discussion confident that we have the right to freedom of expression and the exchange of ideas enshrined in some of our most important legislation whilst being very well protected from the excesses that occasionally raise their ugly heads (an example of one such lying excess is attached for your elucidation).

Our laws around freedom of expression are very comprehensive, allowing us to exercise our God given right to freely express our ideas (New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990: Sec 14 reinforced by Sec 5 & 6) whilst protecting people from ugly excesses (Human Rights Act 1993: Sec 61 etc, sec 131, etc and Summary Offences Act1981: sec 3 & 4 etc).

We also have a range of legislation to protect people from defamation and libel as well as a huge body of legal precedents to tell us exactly where the courts have ruled the boundaries are and what crosses them.

So he thinks he is legally justified in posting this sort of thing.

You perhaps need to spend some time reading through the relevant Law Reports. They are truly as fascinating as they are educational.

I will never be ashamed for speaking out against hateful people who would destroy my country and deliver us to our enemies.

And he thinks he is morally justified. I think it is morally repugnant from David Hughes.

This is a shameful and n insidious religious and political attack.

According to some comments it has been reported to Facebook, but as of now it is still up, and getting some support amongst the criticism.

There does seem to be hate in Hughes’ speech, and it is likely to encourage or provoke more intolerance and fear and hate – it has attracted some support.

This David Hughes (if that is his name)  deserves to be shamed.

I think that at times Gharaman has gone to far in what she has promoted, and what she has supported in controlling ‘hate speech’, but with ongoing attacks like this it’s understandable that she might get frustrated and may want something done to stem this sort of dirty politics.


Note: comments on this post should be confined to the Facebook post and what it means for politics, religion and free speech, whether this sort of ‘free speech’ is appropriate, whether it should be limited by law, and what should be done about it.

Please don’t divert into general or historic criticism or commentary on Ghahraman or Muslims.

 

Hate speech discussion requires calmness, credibility and leadership

Phil Quinn unnecessarily resurrects and old gripe against Golriz Gharaman, but he repeats a concern I have seen expressed quite a bit – she is not the best MP to be fronting a debate on hate speech. This gets in the way of a more general and more important point –  MP lacks credibility in urging hate speech law

As for how New Zealand adapts its hate speech laws in the wake of Christchurch, it strikes me the distinction between the merely vile and the outright dangerous remains important.

And that will be difficult to differentiate.

I’m inclined to the view that the best antidote to bad speech is good speech.

Ideally – but we have a problem when bad speech shouts much louder and attracts more attention than good speech

However, when this veers into incitement – when it reaches a certain fever pitch – the law should step in. While tricky, this isn’t an impossible line to draw. I’m wary of efforts to expand definitions in such a way as to grant the state greater powers to police language unless it represents an identifiable threat to public safety.

I think that personal safety is an important fact as well.

One of the more difficult problems is how deal with ongoing bad/hate speech that doesn’t cross a line, but accumulation of which can amount to inciting or damaging speech as a whole.

The better approach is embodied by our prime minister, which is to overwhelm bigotry with a message of tolerance; hate, with love.

Ardern’s response to the Christchurch mosque massacres was very effective – for a short while. It hasn’t taken long for the hate speakers and dividers and wreckers to find their voices again – this is evident in comments at Kiwiblog (despite what were claimed to be significant moderation changes) and in posts and comments at Whale Oil – the two largest political blogs in New Zealand.

This is where the individual citizen can lead the way in our own domain. Push back against the racist uncle. Don’t stand for homophobic slurs. Don’t be bamboozled by the “anti-PC” crowd who see something sinister in using language in kinder, more respectful ways. We are, after all, our own best censors.

We should do this more, but it is actually much harder than it sounds, both online and in person.

I have written about and confronted bad speech on Kiwiblog, The Standard and Whale Oil for years, and have been attacked, vilified and seemingly have become despised for doing this. I think The Standard has improved, but the other two are still bastions of bad speech.

When it comes to clamping down on social media platforms, I’m more amenable. Nobody endowed Facebook and Google with an immutable right to create digital cesspools that we are forced to wade through in perpetuity so they can better target ads at us. Self-regulation has demonstrably failed.

It’s too early to tell whether the kind of answer proposed in the UK’s online harm white paper represents a viable solution or clumsy overreach, but it’s a debate worth having, and one New Zealand should emulate.

To do so constructively, however, we need leaders both inside and outside Parliament to front the discussion with calmness and credibility. This we do not have at present.

Ardern did very well but seems to have largely moved on. Being Prime Minister demands attention on many different things. Ardern can be a prime example of good speech, but she needs wider support from MPs.

Ghahraman is too divisive and polarising to be an effective front person (the many attacks on her have been as bad as despicable, but she hasn’t found an effective way to rise above that).

What I think would work with the right approach is for a cross party group of opposition and back bench MPs to take on the leadership on how to address bad speech and hate speech.

 

 

 

 

We need to think outside the legal square to deal with ‘hate speech’

I think that relying on legislation and the courts to deal with ‘hate speech’ issues may be largely futile. Laws and courts poorly suited to dealing with most online ‘hate speech’

We already have laws that deal with abusive speech and incitement – since the Christchurch mosque massacres there have been a number of arrests, with several people remanded in custody. While this has picked up on some of the more extreme examples and may have sent a warning message to others there has been a quick resurgence in derogatory and divisive speech online.

Just waiting for the police and courts to deal with the worst is not likely to be much of a solution.

I don’t think that widening the laws to make less serious ‘hate speech’ illegal and subject to prosecution is a practical approach.

One problem is what speech justifies prosecution. Another is who gets to decide.

And with the speed at which speech circulates online the legal system is generally far too slow to react, and even slower to deal with it.

Confronting and ridiculing have been suggested as ways of dealing with ‘hate speech’. To be effective this has to be fast and fact based.

Perhaps something like the Press Council or Broadcasting Standards Authority could be set up, but geared for rapid response – combating bad speech with good speech.

This could involve research so that common ways of replicating divisive and derogatory speech (and there are common patterns and techniques for some of it).

A website as a source of fact based rebuttals would be useful.

This could be Government funded but non-political and non-legal, but with an ability to refer the worst cases to the police.

I think we have to be thinking outside the legal square in looking at ways to deal with this. Some legislative tweaks may be warranted, but the main problems probably (and should) fall short of being made illegal.

Well meaning waffle on free speech v hate speech from two MPs

The opinions from National Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith and Labour list MP Priyanca Radhakrishnan from Stuff:  The delicate balance of free speech v hate speech

Stuart Smith

Finding a means to restrict free speech by legislating against “hate speech” – the modern version of blasphemy – is something that must be carefully considered.

Hate speech and harmful extremism, on any platform, should not be tolerated, and we are right to scrutinise the role of social media in the context of the Christchurch tragedy, and the wider issue of extremism and hate speech.

Our legal system has recourse for those seeking to incite violence.

If we legislated against hate speech, who would decide what constitutes hate speech?

I think that this is one of the primary concerns.

That is why I believe that some of the calls to regulate free speech through legislation may go too far. There is a risk that, as with many difficult and potentially harmful issues that society grapples with, attempts to regulate social media too heavily will drive groups underground to the “dark web”.

Or talk about it in private away from the Internet. That probably happens already.

This issue is not new. Professor Paul Spoonley, Pro Vice-Chancellor at Massey University, was to give a very timely public lecture called The Politics of Hate in the Age of the Internet on March 19, but this was postponed.

He states that research points to a significant spike in online hate speech since 2017.

I agree with his argument that we should not allow it to become normalised and that this is not simply about legislation, but public awareness and discussion.

It is up to all New Zealanders to keep this important conversation going.

Priyanca Radhakrishnan

Access to the internet along with social media platforms has undeniably changed the way we consume information.

While discrimination and hate may have always existed, they now have new, powerful distribution channels.

Social media platforms have served to amplify hate speech across the world. It can be difficult to get rid of harmful messages and hateful comments on social media. Even if the original comment or post is deleted, someone, somewhere, could have already copied and shared it.

It’s time for social media platforms to act to prevent the spread of hate.

Major social media platforms like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter have poor records at preventing ‘hate speech’. They are too concerned about making money.

In the wake of March 15, we have the opportunity to confront the racism, xenophobia and hate that is proliferated through these channels. As individuals, we are each responsible for what we put out there on the internet, and as a country, there is an appetite for change.

As individuals we also have a responsibility to challenge harmful crap speech, both online and in our offline lives.

The Government believes the best and most enduring way to ensure change is to act collaboratively with other governments and with social media companies. The problem is global so the solution needs to be too.

The Prime Minister has committed to New Zealand playing a leading role in this change and Kiwis can expect to see more details of our plans in this space in the coming weeks.

I doubt that relying on international companies and other governments is going to deal with this adequately.

We need to come up with local means of dealing with global problems.

I am disappointed with these contributions to the discussion by Radhakrishnan and Smith. They may help keep the discussion going but they haven’t added much if anything themselves.

Franks v Ghahraman, free speech v hate speech

Lawyers Golriz Ghahraman and Stephen Franks debated free speech versus hate speech on Newshub Nation yesterday.

Ghahraman wants laws to address hate speech (there are dangers with this if it is poorly defined or speech is restricted too much. She as asked “how do you determine that, when these things are actually often in the eye of the beholder”?

So the definition of hate speech is a little bit like definitions of other limitations of free speech that already apply in our law to protect individuals. Defamation exists for example, and it’s about harm. So you can’t lie about a person to damage their reputation, make them unsafe, make them unemployable for example, those are very real harms that can come from speech and we have legislated against that for individuals.

Those laws haven’t protected Ghahraman from hate tweets, or hateful comments on Facebook, Whale Oil and Kiwiblog.

What we’re saying is the same type of thing should apply to groups. In France they actually define hate speech as very similar to defamation as they do in other parts of Europe.

So it’s about whether a third party would be moved, and this is the standard in New Zealand in terms of our jurisprudence, whether a third party would find this speech to be such that they would become hostile toward that group.

It’s not about how the group feels.

Inciting hostility in a third party.

Franks:

It’s an objective view of how they would feel. It’s putting yourself into their shoes.

The essence of what’s missing is that truth is no defence.

In defamation truth is an absolute defence, and that’s because of the view that we all ought to be able to challenge and be offensive, and call out beliefs and views that are bad.

There’s absolutely no doubt that for many Catholics, exposing priest pederasty has been offensive, under all the tests of hate speech, it’s hate speech, because it makes them feel bad and it ought to make them feel  bad.

He believes that all speech should be allowed, including hate speech which should be combated by ridiculing it (I think there are flaws to this).

The power of bad religion has only been defeated by satire, by ridicule, by exposure.

A major problem though is when all members of a religion are ridiculed due to the bad application of that religion by a small minority.

“It’s time to have a conversation about our hate speech laws”

Green MP Golriz Gharahman has been busy on Twitter encouraging “a conversation about our hate speech laws”.

She has first hand knowledge of hate speech, having been on the receiving end of awful attacks online.

This has also been promoted by the Green Party.

We now know that hate speech allowed to grow and be amplified online is undermining democracy around the world.

In New Zealand we know that it can be fatal.

The Bill of Rights Act protects free speech, but it’s balance against all our other rights. Our laws already protect individuals against harmful speech. You can’t threaten people. You can’t harm their reputation.

This isn’t really very accurate. The current laws don’t protect us, they give us some means of doing something about being threatened or having our reputations being harmed, but these means are usually far too slow and too inexpensive.

The police will only act on alleged threats if they thing there is a risk of serious harm.

Defamation proceedings are lengthy (Blomfield v Slater has taken six years so far to find that later had no defence, but damages are unlikely to be determined for another year or so) and very expensive. Most people can’t afford to protect their reputations via our current laws.

If defamation against individuals is already illegal, why should people be allowed to harm minority groups.

Including major minority groups?

What constitutes ‘harm’ is contentious and difficult to define. It can range from perceived hard feelings to escalation to actual physical harm.

Most new Zealanders would be shocked to find that our hate speech laws don’t cover religious minorities. They don’t cover gender, the Rainbow community, or the disabilities community.

All religions are minorities. There re no single ‘communities’ of Rainbow or for people with disabilities.

We need to change that.

We must make New Zealand the kind of place where we all feel truly safe and at home.

We certainly should work to change things for the better when it comes to speech.

But is it possible for everyone to feel ‘truly safe’ from hurt, while also feel truly safe to openly say what we think?

From follow up tweets:

You definitely shouldn’t be allowed to spread hate against a protected group based on your religion. Having well defined hate speech laws that assert equal protection for everyone’s rights and safety would do just that.

Deciding on “well defined hate speech laws that assert equal protection for everyone’s rights and safety” will be very challenging. And equal protection means there should not be specified ‘protected groups’.

It’s frightening that LGBTQIA communities aren’t protected against hate speech in NZ given the very real violence that translates to. Why is it unlawful to speak harmful mistruths about an individual and not a group?! Definitely time to realise we’re behind on this one.

Violent and intolerant language can contribute to actual physical violence – but a lot of harm can be done just with words.

A lot more tolerance of minority races, ethnicities, nationalities, political preferences, religions, gender and sexual preferences would be a major step forward.

But alongside this there must be some tolerance of speech that some people may feel uncomfortable with or offended by – it is common to hear people saying they hate opinions that differ from their own.

We need to have more than just conversations about how we address harmful speech, we need to have a robust debate about the balance between potentially harmful speech, and the freedom to speak in a normal and socially acceptable way.

Justice Minister says hate speech laws ‘very narrow’ with gaps

Minister of Justice Andrew Little has said that New Zealand hate speech laws are too narrow and there were gaps in the law, but also said that any changes needed to be robustly debated.

RNZ:  Current hate speech law ‘very narrow’ – Justice Minister Andrew Little

Justice Minister Andrew Little says gaps exist in current laws around hate speech and what should be considered an offence.

Mr Little announced on Saturday that he was fast-tracking the review, which could see hate crimes made a new legal offence.

Mr Little told Morning Report today the current law specific to hate speech offences was “very narrow”.

“It applies to inciting racial disharmony, it doesn’t relate to expressions that incite discrimination on religious grounds or identity or a range of other grounds.”

“If you look at the Harmful Digital Communications Act, which is the other law we have dealing with what we might describe as hate speech, it’s very thorough but the question is whether the processes that are available under that legislation are as accessible and as good as they might be, so there’s grounds to review both those areas,” he said.

On who is covered under current law, Mr Little said: “If your hateful expressions and hateful actions are directed at somebody’s religion, or other prohibited grounds of discrimination other than race then actually it doesn’t cover that, there’s no offence at that point.”

He said you could potentially lay a complaint for mediation with the Human Rights Commission, but that the most gross type of expression seen around the Christchurch terror attacks wouldn’t be covered by it and that looked like there was a gap in the law.

He said the review would make clear whether the law does fit. He’s not convinced it does, but said he’ll leave it up to the experts doing the review.

Mr Little said the issue about where the line was drawn was the most difficult part of any law that constrains expression and speech.

“The reality is we know that there are forms of expression on social media and elsewhere that you can see at face value are totally unacceptable and not worthy of defence but then there are opinions and views that we might disagree with or might even find offensive but are legitimate contributions to debate.”

Mr Little said any change to the law would need to be robustly debated.

I’m sure any suggested changes will be robustly debated.

Gordon Campbell (Werewolf) on the legal crackdown on hate crimes

Obviously, deterring hate speech and outlawing hate crime has the aim of providing better protections to vulnerable persons and communities, but without unduly restricting the public’s rights to free expression. It isn’t an easy balance to strike.

Hate crimes have a broader effect than most other kinds of violent crime. A hate crime victimizes not only the immediate target but also impacts every member of the group that the direct victim represents. Hate crimes affect families, communities, and sometimes the entire nation.

With hate speech, it is maybe worth keeping in mind that this is not purely a hate crime vs free speech issue. Speech has never been entirely free, under the law. Some language (obscenity) some speech in some contexts (eg yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre) and some types of threat have always been illegal.

Theoretically, the online expression of hate speech should fall under the Harmful Digital Communications Act, but given (a) the superheated and extravagant nature of much “normal” online debate and (b) the extent to which hate content online originates from offshore, the New Zealand law doesn’t currently offer much in the way of a defensive shield.

Moreover, regulating speech online to the point where hate speech and/or the perception of it was entirely eliminated would require a surveillance apparatus and enforcement powers like those more commonly found in totalitarian states than in social democracies. Online, the cure may be almost as mad as the disease.

It could easily be worse if allowed to go too far in restricting speech.

To me hate is a very strong term, but many people say they ‘hate’ many trivial things.

With hate crime, and hate speech then, there may well be some scope for adjusting the boundaries of what counts as “intimidation” – where co-ercion is involved or implied – and “menacing”, where the intention is to engender fear and subservience in the victim. Unfortunately though, when Parliament has tried to deal with this sort of thing in the recent past, ordinary civil liberties have gone out the window in favour of rank political posturing.

Political posturing is a problem in any serious debate.

As Andrew Little has said, we have until December to find viable ways to criminalise expressions that (currently) do not meet the traditional tests of criminality – but which nevertheless have left vulnerable communities or persons feeling less safe. (Arguably, the repeated expression of hostile sentiments can serve to make an actual attack more likely.)

Any pre-emptive law however, which tries to restrict expression in areas where strong social disagreement exists will still need to be even-handed.

Putting that in context of recent discussions, that means restrictions on derogatory expressions related to religion would have to be ‘even handed’ – so should apply equally to ‘hate speech’ against Muslims and Islam, Christians and Christianity, and also agnostics and atheists.

This requirement may not suit groups that feel they have historical grievances, or socio-economic inequality etc on their side.

As the late US justice Antonin Scalia once famously wrote, the state has no authority to license one side of a debate to fight freestyle, while requiring the other to follow Marquis of Queensbury Rules. That’s one of the ironies.

The pressure for change may have to do with expressions of hostile content, but the solutions – if they are to be enforceable – will probably need to be formulated in ways that are content neutral. There will be few easy political points to be scored from such formulations.

The free speech versus hate speech debate is more than political – it is about the fundamentals of democracy as well as the fundamentals of a (relatively) free and open society.

Failures and success of ‘hate speech’ law in the UK

With a review of hate speech laws under ‘urgent review’ in New Zealand (not that urgent, expected to report back to Parliament late this year or early next year after consultation) there has been interested in how similar laws have worked in the United Kingdom.

Of course examples of seemingly ridiculous applications of the UK laws have been publicised.

David Farrar (Kiwiblog) Government looking to introduce hate speech laws

The UK is a great example of how well intentioned laws end up criminalising many different types of speech. Some examples:

  • An evangelist, was convicted because he had displayed to people in Bournemoutha large sign bearing the words “Jesus Gives Peace, Jesus is Alive, Stop Immorality, Stop Homosexuality, Stop Lesbianism, Jesus is Lord”.
  • A man was arrested in Cardiff for distributing pamphlets which called sexual activity between members of the same sex a sin
  • Harry Taylor sentenced to six months prison (suspended) because he left anti-religious cartoons in the prayer-room of Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport on three occasions and the Chaplain complained
  • A 19-year-old woman was convicted of sending a “grossly offensive” message after she posted rap lyrics that included the N-word on her Instagram page
  • An Irish TV writer was visited by the Police because he used the pronoun “he” on Twitter to refer to a transgender woman.

Lowering the bar from exciting hostility will lead to court cases like the ones cited above. If the Government proceeds, it will be buying a huge battle.

There is already a battle brewing – for good reason. I have serious doubt that a clear and fair law can be written to protect people against potentially damaging speech, and also protect people against frivolous legal jeopardy.

But there is one example of how the law seems to have worked reasonably well in the UK.

BBC News – Jayda Fransen: Ex-Britain First deputy leader convicted over hate speech

A former deputy leader of far-right group Britain First has been convicted of stirring up hatred during a speech about Islam in Belfast.

Jayda Fransen, 33, was found guilty over a speech at a rally in August 2017.

Britain First leader Paul Golding, 37, and two other Englishmen, John Banks and Paul Rimmer, were acquitted on similar charges.

All four defendants were on trial over speeches given during the ‘Northern Ireland Against Terrorism’ event two years ago.

They were accused of using threatening, abusive or insulting words intended to stir up hatred or arouse fear.

The court heard that Fransen told those gathered at the rally that there was no moderate version of Islam and that: “These people are baying for our blood.”

She added: “Islam says every single one of you wonderful people here today deserves to be killed.”

Those attending the rally were then told it was time for the world to come together against “the one common enemy”.

The judge told the court: “I’m satisfied these words were intended to stir up hatred and arouse fear.”

That sounds like a fair call from the judge to me.

He also found her guilty over a separate, filmed incident at a Belfast peace wall in December 2017.

On that occasion, the court heard that Fransen declared the “Islamification” of Britain will lead to similar walls to separate the two sides.

She claimed the country was “descending into civil war” and said it was time to “rise up against the biggest threat against the entire world”.

Confirming a conviction for that episode, the judge said: “I’m satisfied the words were menacing in nature.”

It sounds like Fransen is pretty much trying to incite civil war. I think legal consequences for that are a reasonable response.

(I have heard similar speech to this on New Zealand blogs).

Golding, of Beeches Close in Anerley, London, allegedly referred to a mosque in Newtownards as part of claims about Islam’s colonisation.

In his speech, he said: “We have got a problem with one religion and one religion only, that is Islam.”

Rimmer, of Modred Street in Liverpool, allegedly told the crowd Muslims were colonising and taking over British cities.

The 56-year-old was said to have warned about “a wolf coming down the track”.

He claimed, however, that he spoke about love and friendship.

The judge dismissed the case against Golding, Rimmer and Banks, 61, of Acacia Road, in Doncaster, England.

He said some of their speeches were “ugly” but had not crossed the line into being illegal.

And this seems like a reasonable differentiation – ugly speech that falls short of justifying a conviction.

New laws, like the ‘hate speech’ laws, need differentiations like these decisions to be made to establish a reasonable idea of what is legal and what is illegal.

There is always a risk of some prosecutors and some judges going too far, but the UK legal system, which ours is modelled on, has to work with what legislators (politicians) give them.

Hopefully our politicians can learn from the missteps and oversteps in the UK and avoid them here.

Minister of Justice fast tracking ‘hate speech’ legislation review

Minister of Justice Andrew Little says he is fast-tracking a review of legislation to look at ‘hate crime’ and ‘hate speech’. This could possibly lead to more specific laws to cover them.

However ‘fast-tracking’ does not necessarily mean a sudden knee-jerk lurch to draconian laws as some are saying is already happening. Little hopes to have aa proposal by the end of the year, and that would then have to go through Cabinet for approval and then through Parliament, so any changes look like being at least a year away – in election year,

1 News: Andrew Little plans fast-track review of hate speech laws

Justice Minister Andew Little says he’s fast-tracking a law review which could see hate crimes made a new legal offence.

He said the current law on hate speech was not thorough and strong enough and needed to change.

Mr Little said the Christchurch shootings highlighted the need for a better mechanism to deal with incidents of hate speech and other hateful deeds.

It isn’t unusual for an unprecedented crime to prompt a rethink of things that could be contributory factors (it happened after the Aramoana massacre). Firearm regulation and law changes are actually being fast-tracked, not just a review of them – and order in Council has already reclassified many types of semi-automatic weapons, and it is expected the legislation will go before Parliament next week.

He has asked justice officials to look at the laws and he was also fast-tracking a scheduled Human Rights Act review. “The conclusion I’ve drawn as the minister is that the laws are inadequate and I think we need to do better,” Mr Little said.

Mr Little said the current laws dealing with hate speech and complaints about hate speech and discriminatory action that relate to hateful expression were lacking.

The law in the Human Rights Act related to racial disharmony, but it didn’t deal with various other grounds of discrimination, he said.

The Harmful Digital Communications Act was put in place to deal with online bullying and other unpleasantness, but it didn’t tackle the “evil and hateful things that we’re seeing online”, Mr Little said.

He said the government and the Human Rights Commission will work together, and a document or proposal will be produced for the public to debate.

Note “a document or proposal will be produced for the public to debate”. It will be important to have a decent public debate about whatever is proposed.

“There will be important issues to debate. There will be issues about what limit should be put on freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

“We should reflect on where the lines need to be drawn and therefore, whether the laws should be struck so that they’re effective and provide some protection to people who’re otherwise vulnerable.”

I think it is going to be quite difficult trying to define hate speech and hate crime in legislation. And also to get a reasonable balance between protection from hate speech and free speech.

Stuff: Hate crime law review fast-tracked following Christchurch mosque shootings

Currently, hate-motivated hostility can be considered an “aggravating factor” in sentencing, and staff can note when a crime was motivated by a “common characteristic” such as race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or religion.

Overall, there is no way of knowing how many offences are hate crimes and police do not even routinely record the ethnicity of victims.

Little said he had asked the Justice Ministry to look at relevant aspects of the Human Rights Act, the Harmful Digital Communications Act, and sections of the Crimes Act to see what laws needed to be changed or added.

“I certainly think that the laws dealing with what we call ‘hate speech’, and human rights law, are woefully inadequate,” Little said.

The tolerance for what had been considered acceptable had been too high, he said. Ethnic minorities needed to not only be accepted, but embraced and welcomed.

“It’s timely to make sure that for those who would want to hurt others – even through words – that we can curtail that.”

Somehow a legal line has to be drawn between fair reporting and debate, and speech aimed at hurting, intimidating, alienating.

The Human Rights Commission collects “race-related complaints” but says it has an incomplete picture of the problem. It has been calling for a national recording system to be set up.

The commission’s chief legal advisor Janet Anderson Bidois said there were “grave anomalies” in the current law.

“For example, the Human Rights Act prohibits the ‘incitement of disharmony’ on the basis of race, ethnicity, colour or national origins, but it does not cover incitement for reasons of religion, gender, disability or sexual orientation,” she said.

“We maintain that a discussion about our current hate speech laws is overdue, and that urgent action is required in relation to the recording of hate crimes.”

This will be a challenge for all of us.

Especially as the review has been prompted by the Christchurch mosque attacks, a lot of discussion will focus on Islam and Muslims, who have been ostracised and targeted in generalised attacks that go further than criticism.

Some attacks on Muslims have become quite sophisticated, trying to couch attacks in reasonable terms. One common tactic is to cherry pick pieces out of old religious texts and imply this is representative of  all Muslims, including by implication Muslims in New Zealand.

Claims of justification because ‘it is just facts’ don’t wash – it is easy to group selected ‘facts’ (often actually quotes from historic texts, which aren’t facts) in a derogatory or fear-mongering manner.

The same tactic can be used by cherry picking bits out of the Old Testament to smear modern Christians, but it is done far more to blanket smear modern Muslims who have a wide variety of practices and cultures.

It will be hard to stop hate and fear and intolerance of other cultures, races and religions – this can be ingrained in some people.

It will also be hard to prevent this hate and fear and intolerance being used to attack groups of people, while still allowing for relatively free speech and open discussion about things that are pertinent to life in New Zealand.

This is also a challenge for social media and blog moderators.

I will do what I can to encourage debate proposals to change hate speech and hate crime laws, but preventing these discussions from becoming hateful or from mass targeting where it is not warranted by circumstances.